Pro Models, Power Naps and Autographing the History Books with Joe Schuster
Joe Schuster’s style, name and sleepy superhero-esque execution to tricks in the back country has become synonymous with the PNW ski scene. Through his early years as a competition killer and seamless entry into the film world, Schuster has steadily climbed the hierarchy of production companies from Rage Films to Theory 3 to Poor Boyz and finally Super Proof. He also recently entered the X Games Real Ski competition and ended up with some hardware. And now he has a pro model ski from the increasingly dominant Liberty Skis crew. Schuster and I spent some time hiking around in the Bulgarian mountains with industry heavyweight Tom Winter: skiing trees and incredibly light powder, I got to know Schuster personally, and found him to wear his heart (and lack of an indoor voice) on his sleeve. DL finally got a chance to lock him down for a few words between even more travels, naps and tricks in the best snow the West Coast has to offer.
(Main image by Ashley Barker)
DL: Joe! How was your season?
JS: It was good, but tough. I went over to Japan in January for my first time which was such an awesome experience and such unbelievable snow!! After Japan we ended up pretty much struggling for the rest of the season, whether it was driving 30 hours to unknown areas for 2 weeks for one shot, bad snow conditions, literally no snow in areas, broken down trucks, or a serious car crash it seemed like everything was working against us this year, but in all honesty we some how pulled it together and came out on top, luckily!!
DL: How did you end up getting to Whistler in the first place and how long have you been based here?
JS: I’ve been in Whistler on and off for like eight years or something like that. I started coming here when I was a kid for freestyle contests. I grew up in Vernon so it was only a five hour drive to whistler so as a kid we would try and get out to Whistler as much as possible and then after high school it was just a no-brainer to move here.
DL: Any insight into how winning an X-Games medal felt? How did it all go down?
JS: Well it’s kind of funny how it went down. I actually didn’t get asked to do the contest until April so at that point I was almost done filming for the year. That season was a really tough start to the year and we didn’t start filming till mid February. Once we got going whistler was super consistent and we were super keen to get out there so we went out as much as possible for six weeks and then after that I went on a couple non film trips and ended up breaking my tail bone so I was out for a while and that was pretty much the end of my filming for the year. I got lucky with those six weeks though, got some footage I was really stoked on and then when I got asked to do Real Ski I just submitted what I had at that point and that was it really.
DL: How do you feel about being the people’s champ (viewer’s choice and bronze in real ski right? Two medals?) and do you have anything to say about the online hashtag voting format or the competition format of Real Ski in general?
JS: Haha ya well peoples choice doesn’t get a medal but that was pretty funny. I have mixed thoughts about the voting format, I mean one side of me definitely feels like its a biased voting system because its just about popularity on social media. My friends started posting all these drunk photos of me and it started getting attention so I went along with it and Im stoked to have won that award but at the same time that award could really go to anyone because social media voting is so biased and so irrelevant as to whether those people who are voting for you are voting because they liked your segment or because they think you drunk photos are funny, but either way I’m stoked.
DL: Do you train for ski season? Do you hit airbags, water ramps or trampolines? For the kids coming up, how do you feel about this improving / not affecting the quality of someone’s game?
JS: No I don’t personally do any of that stuff. I have nothing against it really but as a kid I would hit water ramps and I just felt like it wasn’t actually skiing, although it does help with air sense but I don’t know man it just doesn’t work for me. As far as improving the quality of someone’s skiing I mean, I’m sure it will help with air sense and that sort of thing but I grew up in a different era where airbags and that sort of stuff didn’t exist so if you were going to try something you had to commit 100% or go build a jump into pow so you could risk landing on your head. It seems like kids learning tricks into airbags nowadays unfortunately are learning tricks to there hip or there back because they can get away with it on a bag and then when it comes to take it to snow it might fuck with their commitment. But what do I know is: if your feeling the bag, go for it, it just doesn’t work for me.
DL: Anything to say about the state of the PNW’s winter this winter? Was the lack of the goods just another piece of the weather pattern or is this what winter is going to start looking like?
JS: Pfff… I wish I could tell you but I really don’t know. I think we’ve just been in a bit of a rut the past 2 years with snow but it will come back, not sure when but it’s Whistler and we have winter for sure!
DL: Who was the single most instrumental person that contributed to your success? Besides yourself haha.
JS: Oh man, there is definitely not one single person. As a kid Jeff Schmuck was the person who found myself and a couple of the Vernon boys, he put us in touch with Jeff Thomas who gave us our first breakthrough in filming with Theory-3 back in the day so I guess I would say those 2 guys discovered us Vernon boys but after that there have been a million guys who have helped along the way, way too many to people to thank in this industry for their support.
DL: Do you have your eye on any young kids coming up who are doing things right? Who would be your dream prodigy / camper at COC?
JS: Hmm well I skied with the Liberty park boys a bit this year and I have seen crazy talent out of guys like Teal Harle, Max Moffat and Tanner Gordon for sure, those kids are killing it! As far as pow skiers go its hard to see up and comers, it seems like those kids are out there doing there thing and you don’t see them and then all of sudden there filming full backcountry parts out of know where, its weird.
DL: Who are your favourite boys to shred with right now and why? Whats the future of Super Proof looking like?
JS: My favourite people to shred with pretty much has never changed really haha. The guys I grew up skiing with are my best friends and will always be the most fun to shred with, Vernon boys! But that being said I got to film with guys like Abma and Richie Permin this year as they joined the Superproof crew and that was such an amazing experience skiing with guys like Abma who I idolize and just seeing how he skis and learning from him was amazing!
The future for Superproof is strong! Were almost done filming our second movie titled “The Masquerade”. I’m stoked on the footage I have and I know all the boys in the crew killed it this year so I would say things are looking good!
DL: What’s your day to day like right now? Getting last minute shots in the back country while you can or thinking about dock chillin’?
JS: At this exact moment I just showed up to Mt. Hood and Im trying to get a few more spring backcountry jump shots in before the end of the year but after this trip it will be more along the lines of dock chilling for sure, at least for a couple weeks until COC starts up again.
DL: Any plans for the summer? COC Head coach again?
JS: Ya Im still running the COC skier program which is awesome, that place is so fun. After that I have a couple weddings that I’m going to as well as I’m getting a mountain bike finally and going to give that a go seeing as I live in the mountain bike Mecca I figured I should probably try it out.
Joe’s Award Winning Real Ski Part ^
DL: How do you decide on tricks? Dream trick list at the start of the season or do you go spot by spot and just feel it out? Thoughts on ever doing a quad?
JS: Ya, I mean I definitely go into a season with some ideas in my head of what I want to do but like you said a lot of the time the feature will determine what your going to do. Some features are flat, some poppy, some you can’t hit switch, some are good for big tricks, some for mellow tricks so yea, it really depends on what you can find out there, that’s the whole thing with backcountry. A quad?? Definitely not, I can barely wrap my head around the idea of people doing triples at this point so quad is certainly not going to happen for me.
DL: Any shoutouts?
JS: Ya definitely a huge thanks to all my sponsors for having my back and continuing to support my career, Liberty for the new Pro Model, Eira, Shred, Whistler/Blackcomb, Mypakage, Le Bent, BCA. Also my family and friends for always being there and enjoying life together!!